Sermons by Marlin Harless

HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH

WHY BELIEVE?
(Text: John 8:24)
By H. McKerlie--Adapted By Marlin L. Harless

INTRODUCTION: BELIEF AS IMPORTANT AS KNOWLEDGE

An Agnostic's Objection: "You Christian's only believe, you don't know, the things you preach about. You do not distinguish between belief and knowledge. What you simply believe is spoken about as if you actually knew it. It ought to be remembered that we know only that which comes within our experience, while it is possible to believe many things that have not, and may never, come into our experience. In fact, like all other religions and superstitions, Christianity is just mere credulity. To "only believe" may have sufficed for past ages of ignorance, but it takes knowledge to convince this sophisticated age of science and practical thinking."

BELIEF PASSING FOR KNOWLEDGE

On most technical subjects, there are but comparatively few specialists who have acquired from personal experience the science that floods the modern mind. These few investigators are the only persons who can truly say "we know". The thousands who read their works and study their textbooks can only truthfully declare "we believe." This the agnostic must admit, according to his own contention. The facts recorded in the textbooks of the specialists have not come within the experience of the students taught from them. Concerning all the student learns from those valuable works, he may say, "I believe." Not until he has verified their statements by observation, experiment, or demonstration, can he truthfully claim, "I know" the facts concerned.

I. BELIEF CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE

In a criminal court, a man is on trial for his life. He is accused of murder. The jury that will declare him guilty or not guilty know nothing of the man, nor of his having anything whatsoever to do with the victim or crime committed. The judge who shall acquit him or sentence to death is equally unacquainted with the suspect and also knows not one thing that relates him with the slaying. The jury's verdict and the judge's sentence, if there be one, cannot come from their knowledge of the prisoner's guilt, for neither judge nor jury has such knowledge. They hear the testimony of witnesses. They do not know whether these witnesses speak the truth or not. But if they believe they tell the truth, and if they believe the evidence shows the man to have committed the murder, these jurors declare him guilty. And if the judge believes the witnesses to have testified honestly, and if he believes the finding of the jury to be in accord with the evidence, he pronounces sentence of death. Thus, in deciding whether a man shall live or die, it is not knowledge, but belief that speaks the last word. And as this is the general practice in our modern courts of Justice in "this sophisticated age of science and practical thinking," there is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed in saying "I believe."

GOD IS. An Atheist's Contention: Christian's do not know there is a God. They only think there is. Or, it might be more to the point to say they just blindly believe there is a God, because the Bible says so. Those books you call the Holy Bible, with their "God, Holy Ghost, Angels and Devil" constitute a phantasmagoria greater than can be found in all the world's fantastic fiction. And only because it bids you do so, you believe in God."

WITHOUT THE BIBLE MEN BELIEVE IN GOD

Before there was a Bible, men believed in and worshipped God. The Bible does not argue that God exists. It is not a Deistic Apology. It assumes that man, universally, is intelligent enough to believe in God, without any argument from its pages. Indeed, in referring to this question, the Bible points away from itself the mind that doubts whether or not there is a God. "Lift up your eyes on high and behold, who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number…" (Isaiah 40:26).

Yes, the scriptures direct the enquirer after God to the big book of Nature: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handwork" (Psalm 19:1).

The strongest condemnation of idolatry and atheism in the Bible is not leveled at those who reject its assumption that God is, but is pronounced against those who stubbornly refuse to accept the testimony of their own eyes, and ignore the consequent implications of what they behold in the universe around them: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifested in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:18-21).

The poet king of Israel must have been as familiar with the normal working of the human mind as the modern psychologist, when he wrote: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God" (Psalm 14:1). David knew that no intelligent person could come to such a conclusion by using his head. Only from one of the dark depths of the heart, born of the unholy desires there, could that declaration come. The psalmist's conclusion is that only a 'fool' could so smother reason with desire, as to become capable of saying, "There is no God". Many centuries separated the 'sweet singer of Israel' and the Christian scholar and philosopher of Tarsus, yet Paul is in perfect agreement with David, in asserting that man's natural environment furnishes sufficient evidence of the existence of its Creator. They both recognize that atheism is no healthy child of a healthy normal intellect. The big book of nature is written too clearly to allow the earnest honest mind that studies it to come to any other conclusion than that God is!

II. SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY UNITE TO COMPEL BELIEF IN GOD

Just as the rifled bore of his big gun ensures the straight course of the projectile to the mark at which it is aimed, the basic facts of science guide philosophy to its target, the Center and Source of universal being. This assertion is just as true and modern as it is reasonable and ancient. The same few facts of science that channeled the course for philosophy two thousand years ago, today, can guide human thought to the same supreme decision. These foundation factors were then, and are now, regarded as axiomatic, as truths so self-evident as to be universally accepted without argument or demonstration. Here they are:

A. "Out of nothing, nothing comes."
B. "Every effect must have an adequate cause."
C. "Life comes from life, and only from life."
D. "Like begets like."

Just about the time that infidelity was loudest in claiming that, by 'solving' the mystery of the origin of life (by evolution), Science had destroyed at least two of these axioms, the scientists themselves reestablished them as fundamental:

KANT: "Give me matter and I will explain the formation of a world; but give me matter only, and I cannot explain the formation of a caterpillar.

HUXLEY: "the present state of knowledge furnishes us with no link between the living and the not living."

SIR W. THOMSON: I am ready to adopt, as an article of scientific faith, true through all space and all time, that life proceeds from life and nothing but life."

The world has no evidence that there have been clearer thinkers than were some of the Greek philosophers of the five centuries preceding the Christian era. Their science was so limited as to seem pathetic or even ludicrous, compared with that of today. But it is doubtful if the thinkers of the present can make better use of their accumulated knowledge than a few of those Greeks made of the little they had. They reasoned simply, faithfully following the implications of the facts they had ascertained. Planting the foot of their ladder of thought on the solid scientific facts they had certified, on the rigid rungs of the necessary implications of those facts they climbed up through nature's Source. Thinking straight through to the 'ne plus ultra' of all human philosophy, they postulated God, the Living God, sole self-existent, self-sufficient Source and Sustainer of all being.

The school boy of today can follow the same straight course of reasoning as that by which those ancient sages reached their sublime conclusion. We live in a world teeming with life. And if it be true, and science says it is true, that 'out of nothing, nothing comes'; and if it be true, and science says it is, that 'every effect must have an adequate cause'; and if it be true, and science says it is, that 'life comes from life and from life only'; then the Cause, Origin, Source, of all life on this planet must have been something Living.

No Bible is needed to make men believe in God. And very often, the most profound atheism has been at a loss to answer the Believer's simplest question, or contradict his plainest statement. Sailing to Egypt, Napoleon sat on deck with a company of distinguished intellectuals who were openly boasting of their infidelity. Rising to leave them, the Emperor lifted an arm, sweeping his hand toward the star-studded heavens, remarking: "It is very well to talk, gentlemen, but who made all these?"

In a somewhat similar gathering, the only man present known to hold a belief in the Supernatural had maintained an embarrassed silence during the long dinner conversation in which the idea of God was being ridiculed. At last the anticipated attack came. Very pointedly, one of the infidels asked: "Why do you believe in God?" There was a tense attentive silence. Every eye was turned on the believer. The clock struck out the hour. Pointing to it, the man replied, "Clocks do not make themselves."

Science assures us: "The same cause, under the same conditions, produce the same result." This is as true in philosophy as in physics. The same unchanging facts in nature, under the same conditions of honest straight-to-a-finish thinking, bring about the same result---the unavoidable conclusion---God is.

III. THE NEED FOR A DIVINE REVELATION

The Deist Doctrine
"All we need to know about God can be learned from nature. And, as that is one book that has come directly from His hand, it is to be accepted as a safe and sufficient guide in all matters of life and relationship to God."

The Christian contention
I believe in the need of a divine revelation because of man's inability to comprehend the infinite and the failure of human wisdom to find in Nature satisfactory answers to the deepest desires of man's mind."

To the question, "whence came I?," nature points to that which may be known of God, His eternal power and divinity." But when asked, "What is my duty here? And whence do I go? Creation is silent. It tells us nothing about what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. Yet it has developed the inherent conviction that one is to be sought and the other avoided. The feeling of the insufficiency of all the knowledge gathered from nature about God, deepens with the growth of that knowledge and meditation on its significances. In their study of nature, many students have found themselves in about the same position as the scientist who soberly remarked:

"The bigger the diameter of our circle of knowledge,
The greater the circumference of our circle of ignorance."

In other words, the more we learn from nature about God, the more we see of which we are ignorant. No doubt this was the experience of the Greek poet, Simonides, (556-467 B.C.), when requested to write a description of God. That great philosopher and master of the Muse had to his credit more than fifty victories in competitions with the most noted writers of his time. Questioned as to how long he would require to write his conception of God, he said, about a week. At the end of the week, he asked for a month; at the end of the month, for a year; and when that expired, he declined the task, declaring that the more he thought of so great a Being, the less able he was to describe Him.

As a man's conceptions of God derived from nature are varied and frequently contradictory to one another, and as nature tells us nothing definite as to what His attitude toward us is, it seems but reasonable to contend, we cannot know God until He gives a revelation of Himself and His will for man.

It is not assumed that such a Divine revelation would inevitably result in one universal conception of the Creator, nor produce, complete uniformity of understanding as to His will and purposes. For differences in conception and understanding arise from causes apart from what all may agree is a revelation. Fragmentary reading, or preconceived ideas, prejudice, desires, inherent inclinations, and other factors are apt to modify, color or warp the understanding of many. But a revelation of Himself, His will and purpose, coming from the Being who created us, might well be expected to be such as could be properly apprehended and correctly understood by the faculties with which He Himself endowed mankind. And, just as Nature allows no excuse for disbelief, a revelation of His will would allow none for disobedience

First Two Steps Godward
In a confident approach to God, two steps are necessary;
"He that cometh to God must believe that he is,
And that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
(Hebrews 11:6).

Nature enables us to take the first, to believe that God is. Respecting the second, believing God is a rewarder of them that seek Him, Nature is worse than silent, it is contradictory, confusing, perplexing. Just as certainly as the whole creation is harmonious in testifying that God is, so surely nature's disharmonies demonstrates the need for a revelation of His attitude toward mankind, His will and purposes for His intelligent creation.

In the animal kingdom, every essential need seems to be supplied in the creature's natural environment. Every essential desire and guidance is furnished in the inherent quality we call instinct. Barring accident, each animal lives its life perfectly. Young birds hatched in natural climes leave their parents to rear other broods, while they take flight to Southern lands, unerringly guided by instinct. At nature's fixed season, millions of seals within in a few days, arrive at the mating grounds in the Arctic, some known to have come from as far away as seven thousand miles. The weaver bird, hatched from an egg deposited in the nest of a bird of a different kind, will weave the same kind of nest as that in which it was laid and from which it was taken. While it never saw the nest, nor any other like it, the young weaver will make one of the same kind. Pattern and position are woven into the little creature's very nature.

Bird and animal will choose wholesome food and pass by that which would be harmful to them. Only man seems incomplete. From the cradle to the grave, he seems more or less dependent on others, ever learning. The great endowments that lift him above the brute creation, he cannot be certain he uses aright. He soon learns he has no inherent infallible guide within himself. And his conscience, the highest distinguishing characteristic in his spiritual nature, instead of always crowning him with glory, when educated only from the book of nature, often puts a fool's cap upon his head and robs him of the respect of decent minds. It is unthinkable that the author of these qualities of man's moral being should intend that their possessor be left to grope about in darkness seeking for the instruction, without which they become more often a curse than a blessing to him. Nor does it seem reasonable that the loftiest aspirations of the highest form of life we know would be the only natural desires for the satisfaction of which no provision would be made. The whole testimony of Nature bids man look for a Divine Revelation. And many justifiable inferences drawn from the same source seem to plainly promise it.

IV. THE BIBLE'S RIGHT TO TESTIFY

After centuries of investigation, the old question, "Canst thou by searching find out God? Has to be answered in the negative. However there is the Bible, claiming to have the complete answer to man's desire for that knowledge; and to be the revelation God Himself has given to the inherent longing in human nature.

But there are those who deny the Bible's claim. Some of these objectors assert that only a superstitious reverence for the Book accounts for it being regarded as a Divine revelation of the Creator and His purposes concerning mankind. It is demanded by such, that the books of the Bible be investigated and treated in the same manner as any other ancient writings.

This demand is reasonable and ought to be met. And in order to protect those books against arbitrary or capricious judgment they are to be examined in the light of the laws of Evidence governing the procedure, and administration of justice in the Law courts of America, Canada, and Great Britain. And to afford the widest satisfaction from such examination, the Laws of Evidence applied to the Bible shall be only those on which there is complete agreement between these universally recognized authorities on what constitutes 'Legal Evidence': Thayer, Green-leaf, Starkie, Phipson. From the ruling of these experts in the Laws of Evidence, it is useless to appeal, since any others who may be considered authorities will be found in substantial agreement with them on these matters.

Into this decidedly non-religious court of Legal Opinion, then, we bring the Bible and subject it to the stern test of meeting the requirements of the laws of evidence, by which the gravest and most important decisions are arrived at in the every-day conducting of the nations' legal affairs. Our claim is that

The Bible is Legal Evidence Concerning the Subjects Whereof It Speaks and, There-fore, has a Right to Testify 1

CONCLUSION: In this study we have attempted to bring some light to bear on the barren and fruitless circumstances of man, when he chooses to reject the plain and unmistakable evidences, which our Creator has provided for mankind, to encourage him to manifest Faith in Jehovah God, from the realm of nature, which fails to answer man's basic questions: 1. "Why am I here? 2. Where am I going? And, that it is reasonable to assume from these evidences God has provided; that He intended from the beginning, to provide that Revelation which God knew that human-kind was entitled to!!

Beloved, are you absolutely sure of your eternal salvation? In order for any one to become a Christian, you must Obey The Gospel! For example, you must do precisely what God says to become a Christian! You must, 1. Hear the gospel of Christ, (Romans 10:14. 2. You must believe the gospel of Christ, (Romans 10:14). 3. You must repent of past sins, (Luke 13:3, 5). 4. You must confess Christ before men, (Matthew 10:32,33). 5. You must be immersed or baptized for remission of sins, (Colossians 2:12). 6. You must be faithful until death, (Revelation 2:10). Beloved, will you do it Today! Today! Today?

ENDNOTES:

1 Why Believe? By H. McKerlie, excerpts from pages 1- 48. The Brackmont press, 603 Northcliffe Blvd., Toronto, 10, Canada

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

1. The King James Version of The Bible, The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, The Fifth Improved Edition

2. The American College Dictionary

3. The American Heritage Dictionary

4. The Expanded Vines, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

5. Theological Dictionary of The New Testament

6. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology

7. The New Interlinear Greek-English New Testament

8. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of The New Testament

(E-Mail Address: mlharless@kvinet.com) Dear reader: In the event you find errors in this sermon, spelling, misquotes, scripture references, etc., please feel free to inform me of the same, as I want to be as accurate as possible! (Telephone number: [304] 247-6895). Thank you! (MLH)



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